FABIO CAPELLO won a one-match suspension reprieve for Wayne Rooney and ensured his availability for England's Euro 2012 clash against Ukraine by telling a UEFA disciplinary hearing the forward was "paying for my mistake" in failing to substitute the "distracted" player prior to his dismissal against Montenegro.
Rooney, whose three-match suspension for kicking out at Montenegro defender Miodrag Dzudovic in October has been reduced to a two-game ban, with a third game suspended for four years, was given permission by Manchester United to make a personal appearance at the hearing in Nyon, just 12 hours after the club's Champions League exit against FC Basel.
But sources at UEFA's Nyon headquarters claim that Capello's admission of culpability in Rooney's dismissal and subsequent suspension proved key to the commission's decision to reduce the 26-year-old's suspension.
Despite claiming publicly prior to the decisive qualifier in Montenegro that he had no concerns over Rooney's state of mind following the arrest of his father, Wayne Snr, by police investigating alleged betting irregularities in football matches, Capello is understood to have told the three-man commission that he should have substituted Rooney at half-time after noticing that he was not in the right frame of mind in the wake of his father being detained.
Capello's admission echoed comments made by Montenegro coach Branko Brnovic following the game, with Brnovic saying: "I read that Rooney had some family problems in England and I didn't expect him to play because those things are serious and it's not easy to concentrate on the game. They're serious, and maybe that's why he did what he did."
The hearing, chaired by Swiss delegate Michel Wuilleret and assisted by Dr Levent Bicakci, of Turkey, and the Bulgarian Ivaylo Ivkov, lasted an hour and 20 minutes before Rooney left the building prior to the verdict, claiming that it "went all right".
The striker was also helped by Dzudovic himself, who confirmed to UEFA that he had signed a letter calling for leniency.
The decision to reduce Rooney's suspension ensures his availability for the final group game against co-hosts Ukraine in Donetsk on June 19, but he remains ineligible for the preceding fixtures, against France and Sweden.
Having feared the loss of England's leading player for the whole of the group stage, however, the English FA were delighted over with the decision.